I’m very happy to announce that my first book, The Nocturnal City, was published in March by Routledge! It was mainly written from 2014-2017, but it has its origins in my PhD research started back in 2007.
The book puts the night at the heart of understanding urban life. It is the first English language book to do this, and to explore the night in and of itself as an object of research, since Murray Melbin’s Night as Frontier back in 1989.
It’s argument is simple: that while the urban night is being transformed into a space more active, more dynamic and more diverse than ever before, it is also not becoming the same as day.
Night is an inherently more difficult time for people to operate in than day: it’s often dark, often cold, and most people’s bodies want to sleep. For spaces to operate nocturnally, they require an infrastructure of lighting and heating which uses significant amounts of electricity, requiring maintenance, and which causes disruptive light pollution. Night is a time in which our social networks disappear: we become more isolated in our homes, public services stop running, and vulnerable groups can be more exposed to violence and danger. Night is therefore and will remain for the foreseeable future a very different time-space from day. I argue that in studying how night differs, we can start to understand some of the limits or boundaries to urban life, to what we call the city: and as such that even if ‘planetary urbanisation’ fills all spaces of the earth, the spreading of activity temporally across 24 hours is far from complete. Globalisation has its rhythms.
The book covers a range of examples from across the world and looks at diverse topics such as aesthetics of the night, night-time lighting, the domestic night, and the night-time alcohol and leisure industry. There are of course absences and gaps in the book and already I can think of topics, places and people that I’d like to include! But I hope it offers a good overview of why the night is important for understanding the city, and how social scientists have understood it.